By Pastor Devin Strong, Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration brings to mind the importance of having prophets in our midst. During Advent, readings were from the Old Testament book of Isaiah – a prophet before, during and after the exile of the Jews in around 587 B.C. Before their exile into Babylon, Isaiah’s job was to provide a strong word of warning to his people, telling them that the way they were living was destroying their lives and their society — and they needed to repent.
I would imagine that neither Isaiah nor his words were very popular at that moment.
Nonetheless they were accurate, and the Jews suffered two generations as Babylonian slaves. In the midst of those horrific conditions, Isaiah’s message turned to one of comfort and hope.
Unfortunately, when the Israelites were finally freed, they discovered their homeland was destroyed and, though relieved and thankful to be home, they would have to rebuild their lives from scratch.
What’s the lesson for us here? What is the role of a prophet in our lives today? I believe we still need prophets who are willing call us to accountability and repentance, both as individuals and as society as a whole. Sometimes we need to be strongly urged to change our ways — or perhaps turn completely around and go in another direction!
When I think about that notion in relation to Dr. King, I remember how important his calling for us to become a more equal and just society was and still is today. Truthfully, we don’t always like prophets. The New Testament reminds us: “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house.” Why? Because, generally speaking, we like things as they are, and we’re not too keen on being counselled to head in a different direction. We’re more willing to make a few incremental changes than we are to making larger, cultural changes about such issues as race, the environment or a host of other urgent matters.
We need prophets in our world today who – while ignoring their potential unpopularity